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Australia, NZ end lower as North Korea bomb test spooks investors

[BENGALURU] Australian shares finished lower on Monday after North Korea carried out its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday, spooking investors.

The losses were led by financials, pulling the S&P/ASX 200 index down 0.4 per cent, or 22.59 points, to 5702 at close.

North Korea said it detonated a hydrogen bomb for a long-range missile in the latest test, a dramatic escalation of Pyongyang's stand-off with the United States and its allies.

The financial index closed 0.6 per cent lower as the "Big Four" banks lost roughly between 0.2 to 1.4 per cent, although the losses may not have been solely due to North Korea's bomb test.

Market voices on:

Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the country's biggest lender, dropped to its lowest in more than nine months after it announced a major board shake-up.

Last week it confirmed that its internal reporting was aware of shortcomings in monitoring offshore transactions as early as February, well before it was accused of facilitating illicit transfers.

Healthcare stocks also weighed on the market; the sector's index ended 0.8 percent lower with CSL down 0.4 per cent.

But Australian gold stocks rose 0.8 per cent as the gold price hit its highest in nearly 10 months after the North Korean test.

The ASX 300 metal and mining index finished 0.2 per cent up on the back of upbeat commodity prices.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining closed at its highest in over four months, while BHP Billiton ended the day 0.7 per cent up, its highest in more than eight months.

New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index fell 0.2 per cent, or 13.76 points, to finish the session at 7808.22 SKY Network Television was the biggest drag on the index, closing 7.9 per cent down, while Fletcher Building was down 1.3 per cent.